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Thoughts on Baptism - Contents
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    When strong men endeavor to maintain their theories by weak assumptions or flimsy arguments, it often becomes strong evidence of the erroneousness of their theories. They will do the best they can under their circumstances. We are led to these reflections by reading remarks on baptism, by Dr. Lightfoot, copied and approved by Dr. Clarke. He says:—TOB 83.1

    “To the objection, It is not commanded to baptize infants, therefore they are not to be baptized, I answer, It is not forbidden to baptize infants, therefore they are to be baptized.”TOB 83.2

    This is one of the strangest arguments ever put forth by anybody. It is as much as to say, Anything which is not expressly forbidden may be properly maintained as a part of the gospel! That the Doctors should think the absence of a prohibition is equal in weight to the presence of a commandment, does not argue well for their acumen in matters of duty. Under such a rule, the wildest vagaries and most gross innovations may be maintained as of authority in the church of Christ.TOB 83.3

    Nor does the reason assigned help the case. They assume that the rite was well known to, and practiced by, the Jews in and before the days of John, and was passed over into the gospel without the necessity of a precept. Why, then, was adult baptism so specifically required and so often mentioned? This might have stood on exactly the same ground. But there are two difficulties in the way: 1. If proselyte baptism existed among the Jews at that time, there is no evidence, not an intimation, that the Christian or gospel ordinance was the continuance of it. Certainly not, according to Dr. Clarke, for he argues that baptism takes the place of circumcision, which was ever distinct from proselyte baptism. 2. There is no proof that proselyte baptism existed among the Jews at that time. Many authors think it did, but the proof is far from clear. Prof. Stuart went into a thorough examination of the case, both of Scripture and history, and he sums up as follows:—TOB 83.4

    “It is a matter of no little interest, so far as our question is. concerned, to inquire whether Christian baptism had its origin from the proselyte baptism of the Jews. This we have now done, and have come to this result, viz., that there is no certainty that such was the case, but that the probability on the ground of evidence is strong against it.”TOB 84.1

    The reason for this conclusion is found in such remarks as the following:—TOB 84.2

    “We are destitute of any early testimony to the practice of proselyte baptism antecedently to the Christian era. The original institution of admitting Jews to the covenant, and stranger to the same, prescribed no other rite than that of circumcision. No account of any other is found in the Old Testament; none in the Apocrypha, New Testament, Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan, Joseph the Blind, or in the work of any other Targumist, excepting Pseudo Jonathan, whose work belongs to the seventh or eighth century. No evidence is found in Philo, Josephus, or any of the early Christian writers. How could an allusion to such a rite have escaped them all if it were as common and as much required by usage as circumcision?”TOB 84.3

    He thinks, and not without reason, that the Jews in time adopted the baptism of proselytes in imitation of John’s baptism; and that the idea that John borrowed his baptism from the Jews is a mere supposition without foundation in any facts of proof. He admits, also, that the proselyte baptism of the Jews affords an argument in favor of immersion, for no one disputes that their baptism was immersion.TOB 85.1

    Alexander Campbell, than whom few, if any, were better qualified to judge of a fact of history on this subject, says of the Jewish proselyte baptism, it was “born in the Mishna, or rather, the Talmuds, since the Christian era.”—Debate with Rice, p. 288.TOB 85.2

    Another ground taken by Dr. Lightfoot, indorsed by Dr. Clarke, is equally faulty. He says:—TOB 85.3

    “Our Lord says to his disciples, Matthew 28:19, ‘Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them,’ etc.; ìáèçåíá, that is, make disciples; bring them in by baptism, that they may be taught. They are very much out who, from these words, cry down infant baptism, and assert that it is necessary for those that are to be baptized to be taught before they are baptized. 1. Observe the words here, make disciples, and then after, teaching, in the 20th verse. 2. Among the Jews, and also with us, and in all nations, those are made disciples that they may be taught. A certain heathen came to the great Hillel, and said, Make me a proselyte that thou mayest teach me. He was first to be proselyted and then taught. Thus, first, make them disciples, by baptism; and then, ‘teach them to observe all things,’ etc.”TOB 85.4

    When learned and able men resort to such pleadings to maintain their theories, it may well excite our pity. The fact is entirely overlooked that they were to “preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15, 16. Then follows the promise, “He that believeth”—the preaching—“and is baptized, shall be saved.” The argument of the wise Doctors is on the supposition that all the instruction given is after baptism. If so, Peter was certainly mistaken in regard to his commission. Acts 2. He should first have baptized them, and then preached the gospel to them! And the record says, “They that gladly received the word were baptized.” This was all out of order, if the Doctors are right. They should first have been baptized, and then received the word.TOB 86.1

    We notice that the Doctors do not confine these remarks to infants. Their rule applies to adults; they so apply it themselves. A certain man wished to be proselyted (baptized) in order that he might be instructed; which, as they view it, supposes there was no instruction previous to baptism! Was it so in the house of Cornelius? in the house of the jailer? or in the case of the eunuch? or in any case recorded in the Scriptures? It is the very opposite in every instance. We scarcely know at which to be most astonished, the folly or the presumption of learned men in thus setting themselves so directly against the truths of the divine record.TOB 86.2

    In the foregoing extract there seems to be manifested an entire misapprehension of the meaning and correct use of the term disciple. Webster says, To disciple (verb) is to convert to doctrines or principles; and a disciple is “one who receives instruction,” or “one who accepts the instruction of another.” Greenfield gives the meaning of “a follower.” These definitions are in harmony with all the facts of Scripture. They first became disciples by accepting the doctrines of the cross; they “gladly received the word.” Then they were baptized. Of course, instruction did not cease with their baptism; they were to be taught—they were to learn—the truths of God and of the Christian life as long as their discipleship continued, which was as long as they lived. Every instance in the Scriptures is according to this order.TOB 87.1

    The records of the giving of the commission, in Matthew and Mark, sufficiently refute the error into which the Doctors have fallen on this subject. Matthew records the words of the Saviour thus: “Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptizing them,” etc. Mark records them thus: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized,” etc. Discipling all nations, in one record, is exactly equivalent to preaching the gospel to every creature, in the other; and in both records, baptizing follows the discipling, or the preaching, and is to be administered to those who become disciples, or who believe the preaching. In frankness we must confess our belief, that, were men as careful to follow strictly the order of the divine injunctions as they are strenuous to maintain preconceived theories, there would be no stumbling over so plain a record as is given to us in the commission of our Lord to his ministers.TOB 87.2

    To further test the correctness of the position assumed in the foregoing quotation, let us take the case of an infant who is baptized, but who, as he grows up, persistently rejects the offers of the gospel; never becomes a follower of Christ; never believes his doctrines. And such cases are not rare. In what sense is he a disciple of Christ? In no sense whatever. To call one who never believed in Christ, who never accepted the gospel or followed the Saviour, a disciple of Christ, is to abuse the term, and to lower the standard of discipleship to a level with the world.TOB 88.1

    The Old Testament is in harmony with the New on this view of the subject. The word disciple, Isaiah 8:16, is derived from the verb lah-mad, to teach, or to train; discipline. Neither in the Scriptures nor in the lexicons can a warrant be found for such a use of the term disciple as is found in the foregoing quotation.1The word disciple is found in the English of the Old Testament only in Isaiah 8:16. It is translated from an adjective, derived from the verb lah-mad, he did teach. This adjective form is not used man times. Sometimes it is used in reference to lower animals, signifying to goad or to direct them. In reference to men it is translated used (used to), accustomed, the learned (plural), taught, disciples.TOB 88.2

    Once more, Dr. Clarke gives the views of another eminent man, whose name (not given), he says, would do honor to his work. His strongest point, and one which he considers sufficient of itself to prove his position, is based on Ephesians 6:1, as follows:—TOB 88.3

    “Let the address of St. Paul to the Ephesian children be specially noticed. Children, says he, obey your parents åí Kíñéù. How could they obey en Kurio, if they themselves were not en Kurio? In every instance, this expression marks incorporation into the Christian body.” “Respecting the ages of the persons designated (Ephesians 6:1) by the term ôá ôåêíá, there can be no question; as a subsequent verse distinctly states them to be such children as were subjects of discipline and mental instruction.”TOB 89.1

    We thought to pass over the questions of criticism of the text, but are constrained to copy the following from Clarke’s comment on Ephesians 6:1:—TOB 89.2

    In the Lord] This clause is wanting in several reputable MSS. and in some versions. In the Lord may mean on account of the commandment of the Lord, or as far as the parents’ commands are according to the will and word of God.”TOB 89.3

    This comment robs the argument of all force, and shows that the claim of its author is not just, though he says, “This single passage, even if it stood alone, ought to set the tedious and troublesome controversy respecting infant baptism forever at rest.”TOB 89.4

    But what has he proved in regard to this text? Two important points are presented: 1. The children, ôá ôåêãá, are commanded to obey their parents; 2. This author says “respecting the ages of the persons designated,” they were “such children as were subjects of discipline and mental instruction.” In a word, they were “such children” as were capable of obeying a commandment, and of being under discipline and receiving mental instruction. But what has all that to do with infant baptism? Infants neither obey nor receive “mental instruction” before or at their baptism. We fully believe in the baptism of “such children” as conscientiously obey the instruction given in Ephesians 6. But that argues nothing whatever for infant baptism. We can but express our surprise that any man, much less one “highly intelligent and learned,” should choose this text to settle the controversy in favor of infant baptism; but such are the arguments, if they can be called so, by which this doctrine is upheld.TOB 89.5

    It remains to notice one more line of argument on this subject. It is that of the baptism of households. The texts referring to such instances are few in number, and require but little time or space in this examination.TOB 90.1

    1. The house of Lydia. Acts 16:13-15. In this case there is such general consent of pedobaptist authors that there were no infants in the household, that it is unnecessary to add words to their admissions. Thus Dr. Clarke:—TOB 90.2

    “She attended unto the things; she believed them, and received them as the doctrines of God; and in this faith she was joined by her whole family; and in it they were all baptized.”TOB 90.3

    Lydia was doing business in Philippi, nearly three hundred miles from Thyatira, by sea and land. That there were children in her household, or that she had a husband, is not stated in the text. Certain it is that all her household were believers, and verse 40 strongly intimates that they were “brethren;” for there is no account of any other believers there at that time except those of the house of the jailer, whose house Paul and Silas left to go to that of Lydia, where they saw the brethren before they departed from the city.TOB 90.4

    2. The house of the jailer. Acts 16:31-34. On this text there is very slight chance for controversy. They preached to him and to all that were in his house; and all were baptized. And he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” This is both plain and positive. Dr. Clarke says:—TOB 91.1

    “It appears that he and his whole family, who were capable of receiving instructions, embraced this doctrine, and showed the sincerity of their faith by immediately receiving baptism.”TOB 91.2

    But the scripture says they who thus were instructed, and believed, were “all his house;” yet in the face of this declaration the Doctor thinks the inference is allowable that “all his” included his infant also! What an inference!TOB 91.3

    3. The household of Stephanas. 1 Corinthians 1:16. Paul says, “I baptized also the household of Stephanas.” In chap. 16:15, he speaks again of them thus: “Ye know the house of Stephanas, ... that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.”TOB 91.4

    That being the case, no one will dispute that they were all proper subjects of baptism. All had manifested a personal interest in the work of the gospel.TOB 91.5

    Another text may well be noticed in this connection, which, though it does not speak of baptism, gives further evidence on the use of the term house. Acts 18:8, says, “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord, with all his house.” Paul says that he baptized Crispus, but does not speak of baptizing his household; but doubtless they were all baptized, for his words prove that they were all proper subjects of baptism, all being believers.TOB 91.6

    In the case of the jailer it is expressly stated that they spoke the word of the Lord “to all that were in his house,” and that he believed, “with all his house.” Dr. Clarke, on this text, as above quoted, says, “All who were capable of receiving instructions, embraced this doctrine.” Granting what the Doctor infers, though it is not in proof, that there were some in the house too young to receive instructions in the doctrines of the gospel, it follows that the expressions, “all his house” and “all that were in his house,” do not include these little ones. But what, then, do they gain for infant baptism, by inferring the presence of infantile members of the household? The commission, and its fulfillment in Acts 2, etc., confine baptism to those who believe the gospel and repent of their sins. If (as Dr. Clarke claims, and with him all who infer infant membership in the households), the believing of a household does not include the younger members who cannot receive instruction, does not the baptizing of a household, under the commission, exclude the younger members who are unable to exercise the faith required in the commission? Or, in brief, if there may be unbelieving infants in a believing household, may there not also be unbaptized infants in a baptized household? And if not, why not? We do not ask that such an exception shall be made. We are willing to accept the statement as it stands in the sacred record, that all the household heard, all believed, and all were baptized. They who claim that there were infants of days in the households, find a necessity for exceptions to the general statements that the whole households believed. If the exceptions exist, then we claim, on the authority of the commission, that they extend to baptism as well as to faith; for unbelievers were never required to be baptized.TOB 92.1

    One text more we will notice, only because it has been used in favor of infant baptism—not because it has any relation to the subject. This is 1 Corinthians 7:13, 14: “And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”TOB 93.1

    In Hebrews 9:13, Paul speaks of a sprinkling which “sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh;” that is, from what was called “ceremonial uncleanness.” It was not lawful to touch a person thus defiled. And it appears that some were inclined to apply this Levitical law in the gospel so as to affect the marriage relation. If the husband were joined to Christ, and the wife were not, it was supposed that, she being considered as an unclean person, it was not lawful for the husband to live with her, and vice versa. But Paul argues that, if it be unlawful to live thus together, then are your children the fruit of an unlawful connection, and therefore unclean, and it cannot be lawful for you to touch them. In truth, such an idea was calculated to affect the legitimacy of the children.TOB 93.2

    No one can fail to see that the terms “sanctify,” “clean,” and “holy,” are used in the same modified (ceremonial) sense in which “sanctify” is used in Hebrews 9:13; not in a moral sense. For the children are not morally holy by reason of their relation to a believing parent, any more than an unbelieving husband is morally sanctified by being connected with a believing wife. If the language of this text be urged as a warrant for baptizing the children because they are said to be holy, it will also warrant the baptism of the husband who is sanctified—though an unbeliever! For, it might be asked, are not all sanctified persons proper subjects of baptism?TOB 94.1

    The truth is, this text has no relation to the subject of baptism, and is only perverted when it is thus applied.TOB 94.2

    We will give a brief summary of the points in evidence on this subject.TOB 94.3

    1. Baptism does not take the place of circumcision; and therefore it is not allowable to argue from circumcision in the Old Testament to baptism in the New, as is so frequently done.TOB 94.4

    2. Preaching the word comes before baptism; a candidate for the ordinance must first understand his relation to the divine government, as a sinner.TOB 94.5

    3. Faith comes before baptism, according to the terms of the great commission. We must have faith in the name of Christ before we can be baptized into his name.TOB 94.6

    4. Repentance comes before baptism. This also is in the order laid down by Inspiration.TOB 94.7

    As baptism is for the remission of sin, and is the pledge of a new life, repentance is necessary; for without this there can be no assurance of future obedience.TOB 94.8

    5. The same is shown further in that baptism is a burial; and death precedes burial. This death is a death to sin; but there is no death to sin without conviction by the law of God, and repentance. Without these there is no walking in “newness of life.”TOB 95.1

    6. Baptism is commanded, and the commandment requires obedience on the part of all who can understand a precept. No others can obey it.TOB 95.2

    7. Baptism is not a blessing which may be received without volition or obedience. To regard it as a privilege merely, and not as a precept, lays the foundation for gross errors concerning baptismal regeneration, and its necessary counterpart, the destruction of all unbaptized infants.TOB 95.3

    8. Baptism is related to remission of sin; it belongs to a remedial system, and is to be obeyed by all those who have sins to be remitted. It applies to no others.TOB 95.4

    9. Baptism is not for “original sin.” The sin of Adam brings no condemnation to his children, and baptism does not stand related to it. The gospel does not save anybody from that death which we inherit from Adam. Exceptions do not destroy the truth that “in Adam all die.” We all inherit mortality from him, but not condemnation. But the gospel saves from the second death, the penalty for personal sin.TOB 95.5

    10. Baptism does not remove natural depravity, in any case. In this respect, baptized infants are no better than others. It has no power to impart “a higher life to the soul;” it is not “a saving ordinance” in any such sense. Adults are not freed from their fallen natures in baptism, but have to overcome, even to the end. Christian life is a warfare with self.TOB 95.6

    11. Infants are brought from the dead by the great Lifegiver, and die no more because they have no sin for which to answer. They are not saved by repentance, faith, and the remission of sin. The first two they could not exercise; the last they did not need.TOB 96.1

    12. In every instance recorded in the New Testament, the preaching of the word preceded baptism, and they who gladly received the word were baptized.TOB 96.2

    13. The term “children” does not necessarily refer to infants, nor even to young people; and never refers to infants where duty is enjoined, as in Acts 2:38, 39, and Ephesians 6:1.TOB 96.3

    14. The baptism of households affords no evidence in favor of infant baptism. While there is nothing in the statements from which an inference may justly be drawn in favor of infant baptism, a conclusion against it is justly drawn from the statements in regard to the faith and labors of the households.TOB 96.4

    An inference, to be admissible, must have the probabilities in its favor; but in this case the probabilities are decidedly against any just inference for infant baptism. The terms of the commission, the records of its fulfillment, the relations and conditions of baptism,—all lead to a conclusion against it; and the records of household baptisms are such as to shut out such an inference. An inference is necessary only when nothing else can reasonably be drawn from the text; which is not the case in any of the inferences in favor of infant baptism. And an unnecessary inference is worthless, and should not, for a moment, be entertained where questions of duty are involved.TOB 96.5

    The power of the truth in its simplicity, unalloyed by the theories of the wisdom of the world, is shown in the following incident, which we copy from the Biography of Dr. Carson:—TOB 97.1

    “In the year 1807, James Haldane, after having sprinkled an infant, was accosted by his little son, a child six years of age, with the pertinent question, ‘Father, did that child believe?’ ‘No,’ said the parent, ‘why do you ask me such a question?’ ‘Because, father, I have read the whole of the New Testament, and I find that all who were baptized believed. Did the child believe?’ It was enough. God’s simple truth, which had been hidden from the wise and prudent, was revealed to the babe. The strange question, ‘Did the child believe?’ haunted the mind of that father, until, after a thorough examination, he renounced his former errors, and was publicly immersed. His brother Robert soon followed his example. Whole churches saw the light of this ordinance flashing upon them; and thousands of the most devoted men of Scotland, who had taken the Bible as their sole directory, reformed their ‘Tabernacle Reformation’ and followed the Lord fully.”TOB 97.2

    If left free from the glosses of “theology” and the obscurities of tradition, every one could find what that child found in the New Testament; that they who believed—who “gladly received the word”—were baptized. The conditions of the ordinance, the terms in which the duty is set forth, exclude all besides penitents and believers. Though our examination of this branch of the subject has been somewhat brief, we trust such evidences have been presented as will lead the mind, unavoidably, to the truthful conclusion.TOB 97.3

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